MARQUETTE - The D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans had its 32nd annual Volunteer Banquet April 17 at the National Guard Armory in Marquette.
"This is our chance to thank our volunteers for putting in a number of hours, for helping us and helping our veterans," volunteer coordinator Ken Arseneau said. "Our volunteers have put in 11,000 hours; it's an incredible number."
The center gives out awards to volunteers who reach milestones in hours served. There were nine volunteers who received awards for reaching 1,000 hours or more: two reached 1,000, five reached 1,500, one reached 3,000 and one reached 7,000. Five volunteers also received presidential service awards for working more than 4,000 hours.
Volunteers for the home enjoy a meal to celebrate their accomplishments over the past year. (Journal photo by Sylvia Stevens)
Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, adjutant general and director of Military and Veterans Affairs for the state of Michigan, speaks at the D.J. Jacobettti Home for Veterans Volunteer Banquet April 17 at the National Guard Armory in Marquette. (Journal photo by Sylvia Stevens)
"We are a veteran's home and as such if you volunteer for us you're helping out these veterans and they have sacrificed a lot, whether it's WWII veterans, Korean veterans, Vietnam veterans and up to the present," Arseneau said. "We ask a lot of these guys and it's our duty to give back to them, to make their lives as easy as we can."
Volunteers at the center are diverse and unique individuals and they all volunteer for different reasons. Some volunteers are from local service groups that help with parties and bingo events and others are family members of veterans or veterans themselves who want to give back.
"Their grandfather was a veteran or brother, father but it's not limited to that, we do have some vets that volunteer, we have some college students that come in and put in some time," Arseneau said. "So we have a wide age group from 18 on up to 90."
Pamela Jackovich of Marquette has been volunteering for the center for over 20 years. She started volunteering with the veterans because she wanted to learn about their time in the service and about things they had experienced first hand.
"I wanted to get more interest on what they actually did when they were in the service because we don't read about it in our history books and here your getting it first hand." Jackovich said. "I just kept volunteering because everybody had a different story to tell."
Jackovich works with a special group of volunteers for a program called No Veteran Left Alone. The volunteers will sit by the bedside of any veteran who needs them right before their death.
"I sit with those that are passing because they don't have family members around to sit with them and I just go up there and hold their hand and I just sit with them until they pass," Jackovich said. "Then I say a prayer and then I leave, but before they pass I thank them for their service."
Gail Razavi of Marquette has been volunteering for two years at Jacobetti, but she also volunteered at a veteran's center in St. Paul Minn. She helps out at social functions, but also enjoys chatting with the veterans who have no family to visit them.
"There are people at the center who have no family and no one who comes and visits them, so I have gone with several other people to visit them and just chit chat," Razavi said.
Razavi's father served in the Air Force for 20 years so she felt volunteering was a way to give back to other veterans who had also served. Razavi had planned to wait to volunteer until after she retired, but a friend suggested she start early.
"There is a different mentality with the veterans compared to civilians. They are extremely patriotic for our country and extremely dedicated to other veterans and I want to give back to the veterans because they are so unselfish in what they do for us civilians," Razavi said. "The vets are so appreciative of the attention and are so grateful for anyone who helps them."
Even when she isn't volunteering she takes the time to shake hands with any veteran she meets.
"Any time I see a vet I shake their hand and thank them for serving our country and you know what they say, 'it was my pleasure it was an honor,'" Razavi said.